The former boys swim coach at Staples High School in Westport pleaded not guilty Tuesday to sexually assaulting two young Fairfield girls repeatedly over a three-year period.

"Not guilty, jury trial," Jeffrey Schare, a Fairfield resident, answered when asked by state Superior Court Judge Robert Devlin Jr. how he pleaded to two counts of first-degree sexual assault, two counts of risk of injury to a minor and one count each of third-degree sexual assault, fourth-degree sexual assault and attempted third-degree sexual assault.

Schare, 43, coach of the Wreckers boys swimming and diving team for seven years, ignored a reporter's request for a comment as he and his lawyer, Christian Young, left the courtroom.

Behind him in the Bridgeport courtroom Tuesday sat a large contingent of the girls' family, all wearing pale blue ribbons on their lapels.

The judge continued the case to Feb. 8.

Students and staff at Staples High School, where Schare also taught math, were told late last year he was leaving the school, but no reason was given.

Police said both girls, now 12 and 8 years old, are acquainted with Schare and attend school in Fairfield. The older girl complained about the assaults to a counselor at her school.

Schare began "grooming" the two girls when they were much younger, "promising favors such as food and sleepovers as rewards for his deviant behavior," according to the arrest warrant affidavit.

The affidavit states he began touching the girls inappropriately, which empowered him to advance his actions: "A behavior he readily admitted to his wife, was a lust for younger girls, an urge that he could no longer control."

Police said the older girl tried to fight off Schare many times.